The morning after Thanksgiving, my husband and I picked up and headed to Ashland Oregon for three days of the Connect Tango Festival. Three days of classes and dancing, sharing a love of tango with about 200 other people.

And we were terrified.

You see, we’ve been taking private tango lessons for a little over a year at that point. But we’ve only even really danced with each other, usually in an empty room. So we’ve never had to work with anyone else, learn from any other teachers, and never had to navigate a crowded dance floor.

And we decided that instead of attending group lessons to get our feet wet, we’d just jump in and attend a festival. With strangers. And let me tell you, that first day at the welcome milonga, we had a bit of panic.

Everyone looked so good. They knew what they were doing. We didn’t see people tripping over each other, running into other couples, or stopping to “reset” because they lost their place or had a brain fart.

They looked NOTHING like us.

I imagine this is what keeps a lot of people out of the gym. Never mind a powerlifting, Olympic lifting, or CrossFit gym. But your run of the mill gym full of machines, dumbbells, and mirrors.

God, the mirrors.

Yelling at himself.

Yelling at himself.

You walk in for the first time and you just know everyone can see the trepidation on your face and in your stance. Taking a little too long to choose which way to go. Awkwardly reading the descriptions on the machines to figure out “What is this supposed to do?”

Even the mental image of this is too much for most people and they never try.

Truth is, no one sees you. Everyone is so engulfed in their own experience ranging from deep into their training to also worrying about what others think.

At the first milonga, my husband and I lasted less than half an hour before we totally freak out and leave. It was incredibly overwhelming.

But after that, you know what we did?

We took a nap. Got a snack. And we went back for the evening class.

At the evening milonga, we made it past the half hour mark before our brains short circuited and we had to leave.

The next day, we lasted nearly an hour.

IT ME! Last day, finally able to relax and enjoy it.

IT ME! Last day, finally able to relax and enjoy it.

By the end of the weekend intensive, we were having fun. We had lowered our “freak out guard” enough that we were learning and applying, having fun, and were able to integrate.

We still didn’t look like anyone else there, we’re clearly super novice. But we stopped caring as much, because we realized people were either happy we were there to share in the experience, or they were indifferent. No one DIDN’T like us there.

The gym is the same way. Your first foray into the weight room is going to be, quite frankly, emotionally painful. The levels of vulnerability you may feel can leave you feeling tense and raw.

I know they did for us. (My neck is only now feeling normal again, 10 days later.)

But each time you go, as you become more familiar with the landscape and the regular faces, those spidey senses won’t be on such high alert.

I can’t guarantee you won’t run into some assholes (unless you come to SPS, I can vouch that our members are AWESOME), but 99% of the people there just want to get their own workout in without judgement themselves.

So take the first visit. Start that new class. Get in the first workout. Each time will get easier.